Gathered in overstuffed armchairs of her palatial living room, memories of my mega church, TV evangelist, name- it and claim-it, Midwestern spiritual heritage return like photographs strewn on the hardwood floor of my faith. A phrase in the book we’re reading together conjures a childhood memory for her. And when she says the words tent revival, a filmstrip of forgotten fragments suddenly reappear in the accumulated files of my mind.
I remember how I lost favor with my boyfriend’s mother when she found out I didn’t speak in tongues.
Remember the Rhema prodigy I bused tables beside, the one who wouldn’t admit to being sick. She was wiping away tears from her flushed face, smiling through sneezes, delivering food to tables with germy hands. Declaring “I’m healed in Jesus name” to all of us gathered in our pie encrusted aprons like a fairy wanding magic dust. Believing that admitting the truth out loud would somehow diminish her faith. Or disappoint God.
“You know I’ve gone more than twenty-four hours now without sinning,” he said, widening his oval blues, elbows resting on the glass gun cabinet.
I meandered away from my post among watches and rings for a moment to flirt with the bible school boy in the back of the store. And this is how he greeted me.
Staring awkwardly at steel barrels and the price of ammunition, I waited for the acrid cloud of pride to vanish; the irony of his admonition lost in a haze of spiritual superiority.
I sit on the front row draped in black, tassel swinging to the beat of my furious foot. Squinting to find my family seated in the nose bleeds awaiting the walk of my destiny. Falsely hoping they are lost among the crowds long enough to miss his speech.
We’ve already lived through the embarrassment. Oral Roberts locks himself in a prayer tower and proclaims that God will take his life if he doesn’t raise 8 million dollars. But he makes it long enough to cancel the scheduled keynote speaker, climb down from the tower and ask for more money from the crowds gathered to watch their children graduate.
There are triggers from our past experiences that keep our faith from fully forming. Or they strengthen it.
It’s really our choice isn’t it?
Because I can use all the stupid things Christians say as the blue print for why I can’t continue to build my faith. Or use them as stepping stones to excavate truth.
My faith isn’t defined by the breadth of my own experience. And like good art, deep faith evokes more questions than answers.
As I remember it, I drove my twenty-something self to church the day my legs wobbled down rows of concrete steps, into crowds of strangers gathered on the mega church floor. As I bowed my head toward my folded legs in surrender, I felt a hand rest gently on my back and I began to speak in tongues.
And then I broke up with my boyfriend to pursue God.
Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 1:27, The Message
I’m just wondering, what are the triggers from your past that keep you from saying yes to God today?